After the long monochromia of winter, it is hard not to focus only on the colors and brightness of spring. First comes the blinding yolk yellow of forsythia, then the huge, waxy, luminous blooms of saucer Magnolia, then the pink froth of cherry blossoms above our heads, followed by the long lavender chains of Wisteria blossoms… There is no denying that all this, with its background of lush greens, is a sight for sorely color-deprived eyes!
But a recent event, for which I had the honor of designing centerpieces that represented the new fragrances of Norell, reminded me that there is more to spring than sight and, not surprisingly, had me thinking more about scent than I had done in a while.
First, on very personal level, the event was particularly evocative for me as my mother has been a Norell devotee for 55 years, and I have fond memories of being a young girl and teetering around in my mother's shoes and slip watching her get dressed to go out. I remember feeling absolutely dizzied by the glamour of it all, the cool silk of her slip on my skin, the perilous height of my heels in her shoes, the pain I felt as my little feet slipped down the arch, my toes getting crammed into the toe of her shoes.
I remember the film still look of my small freckled face in the background of the mirror, looking at my mother look at herself and apply viscous creams and silvery powders. This breathtaking regimen always culminated in an atomized coup de grace – a cloud of Norell around her long beautiful neck, a scent so heady and intoxicating to me – as thrilling as teetering around in her high heels - that I could taste it.
This event was a wonderful one for me not only because their scent had such a place in my childhood.
It had the added value of making me consider scent, and to consider it not as secondary to sight, but of equal importance. And it made me realize that the scents of spring are often overshadowed by the more immediate and pervasive impact of color.
And on another note - pun intended – it was exciting to indulge in scent for this job, as florists are often asked to limit scents in centerpieces as some say scent affects the flavors of food. But I say let the arrangement waft! Scent is just another layer of life, and if some heady lilac influences the way your palate receives a citrus dressing, so be it!
We should make room for scent in our gardens as well – especially our urban gardens, where these moments of green are oases from the hustle, the noise, the pollution, the chaos of city life.
Walking around my Brooklyn neighborhood, I have now been more aware of what smells good, and have of course been stopping to smell more than the roses. As you plan your gardens or dinner parties this spring and summer, I hope you will consider the power of scent.
Here are some of my favorites:
Russian Sage | Lavender | Jasmine | Tuberose | Clematis paniculata | Magnolia